During a recent meeting of the Dunkirk-Fredonia branch of AAUW, Dr. Sheri Moore presented the results of the 2012 Plastic Pollution Project on Lake Erie. Moore is an associate professor of chemistry and coordinator of environmental sciences at SUNY Fredonia. She is one of the professors from five different universities who taught the environmental science class in July of 2012 on the tall ship, U.S. Brig Niagara. The U.S. Brig Niagara is the only sailing school vessel in the United States. It served as a classroom for this three-week long class taught on the Great Lakes.
The students in the class collected and analyzed water and beach samples from Lake Superior to Lake Erie. The study was initiated when Moore realized that while there have been studies on plastic debris in the oceans, it has not been done in fresh water. With 35 million people living in the Great Lakes water shed area, this was felt to be a viable and important project that would answer the question, “Is there plastic debris in the Great Lakes?”
As it turned out, the samples taken from 21 different locations in the Great Lakes looked very different from what was found in ocean studies. As they moved through the lakes toward Dunkirk, there was a decrease in population, but an increase in debris, much of it tiny pieces of plastic. There may be several reasons for this including the cumulative effect and the currents within the Great Lakes.
The results of the research have raised many questions for further research. They are not finding this plastic in ocean samples. Where is it going? Is it moving up the food chain? Moving up the beach? What amount of debris is moving from the beach to the water and visa versa?
In the spring of 2013 there will be another class headed out to further study plastic pollution in the Great Lakes. They will be focusing on Lake Erie.
The next Dunkirk-Fredonia AAUW meeting will be held on Feb. 9, 2013. The speakers, Janeil Ray and her students, will be reporting on their experiences in Belize where they will be working in classrooms during SUNY Fredonia’s January 2013 J-Term.
AAUW advances equity for women and girls through education, advocacy, and research. Membership is open to college students as well as anyone holding an associate’s or higher degree from an accredited college or university. One focus of the Dunkirk-Fredonia Branch is to offer scholarships to SUNY Fredonia and Empire College students. If interested in learning more about AAUW or becoming a member, contact Peg Tiffany at 673-1838